Business networking for CFO is one of the most effective marketing and prospecting method you can use to grow your business. But if done incorrectly, it can be harmful to your business.
Business networking is a lot more than giving out business cards. It is about building trust. For CFO the networking is a lot more than meeting people. It is about connecting with the right people.
Business networking is a lot more than collecting phone numbers. It is about staying in touch, about listening, addressing needs and looking for opportunities all at the same time.
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It is how as a CFO we approach relevant business networking sessions that makes it work for us. Networking is about being authentic and genuine, building relationships and trust, and helping others. Although increased sales is the end goal, don’t participate in business networking to sell.
Build relationships and sales will follow naturally. People have to trust you before they’ll do business with you or refer you. Relationship capital is an immensely valuable part of business success. Put your energy, intention and attention on business networking.
Let's talk about inviting people to your business events in this article. The tips that I am going to share later applies to not only business related events but also normal events as well.
If you have tried inviting people to come for your business events be it networking or talks, you will agree with me that it is not easy to get the numbers especially if you are inviting business man and women because they prioritize almost all events according to ROI (Return On Investment) - if your event does not justify their time to be there, then most probably you will have a poor turnout.
Based on my experiences and observations from the other very experienced networkers in my business circle, I realize that there are only three things that you need to do it probably in order to have a high turn-up rate for your events.
1. Is this what they need?
I do not invite every person I meet to my business events such as BNI. If the first thing you meet someone new is to ask him / her to come to your event, then this is something that you may want to stop and re-think on.
Listening is by far the most important skill we need to learn and refine (not only for business). Thus, the first thing before we even start inviting is to ask relevant questions. For example, if you are holding an event for Internet Entrepreneurs to come together and network, you need to ask and assess if the person you are talking to has this area of interest.
A good question you can start off is, 'Have you been to other business networking events?'. This question not only help you understand them better but also make them reveal if they think they needed such exposure. You will be surprised that some business owners will answer this question admitting that they should go around networking more often! Now, do you think if you invite them to your event at this point of time, the person will be far more receptive and appreciate your invitation?
2. Persistent - the additional effort that makes the difference
A lot of invitations I receive nowadays rarely exceeds more than 3 times. If you are holding an event that happens regularly (for example, monthly), you must be persistent and keep inviting no less than 7 times. Most of the times, people are kind enough to tell you that they have other commitments and couldn't attend your event. If this is the case, invite them again when your next event is coming up. This kind of followup is the key that makes the difference.
I remembered I was inviting a business associate of mine who has rejected me no less than 5 to 10 times (I lost count...) because of his usual morning commitments. One day he finally make it to my BNI (Business Network International) event and thank me for inviting him to attend such an eye-opening event. I think sometimes we just have to be persistent especially if you see that your event adds value to the others.
3. Reminders - the secret to 100% turnouts
I never know that a simple reminder can make such a big difference until I came across a material by Dr. Ivan Misner who mentions that reminders are important and we should remind the people who have agreed to come for our events one or two days before the event.
It can be frustrating sometimes if you see that the person you have invited did not turn up in the end just because they forgot. Hence, a simple reminder either through phone or SMS can be very helpful. At the time of posting, there are already systems in place to send out automated reminders to people who have registered for events. One company that can help you to leverage this technology is FlexiSoft - managed by Norman Chin from BNI Singapore, Raffles Chapter.
Identify which networking events you should attend. Pick groups that’ll help you achieve your goals. Find venues that make sense for your business. When you register for an event, schedule it like a meeting.
Determine how often you should be networking. How many times in a week, month, or quarter? Visit as many groups as possible.
Attend events with a plan and always try to learn something new. Prepare yourself for the event. Develop open-ended questions to ignite a conversation. Bring business cards but don’t give your business card to everyone you meet. Give cards to those who ask you for it. Try to sit with strangers. Don’t forget to mingle.
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Keep track of people you meet. Keep in touch with them and deepen your emotional connection. Establish a mutual beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients/ customers. Meet with the group members individually so you get to know them better and try to build quality connections. Consider other group members as resources. focus on the group; listen and think about how you can help them. Focus on giving. Build trust within the group.
Frustrated because your governing board members lack zeal for the cause and won't raise money?If you're the CEO or a board member, your nonprofit organization needs you to galvanize that board. It's board development time. But...What if certain extenuating circumstances suggest a direct approach to the governing board is not a good idea at this time? Try advisory councils.Advisory councils are a great way to re-charge the juices in a nonprofit organization's leadership and advancement experience. Here are a few reasons why:Recruits individuals who may not (yet) qualify for governing board membership. Expands opportunities for attracting new talent, perspective, and participation to the organization, people who are honored by the appointment and eager to contribute. Attracts additional leadership to the organization without threatening current governing board members, i.e. you need not be forced to invite one to leave in order to invite another to join. And, if there's a problem on the governing board, you can by-pass it by choosing to wage that battle another day. Engages leaders who want to serve but do not want to assume fiscal responsibility (governing board only) for the nonprofit organization. Interests potential members who are often over-committed but still want to be involved, so they like the typical council's limited number of meetings per year. Helps focus members, thus raising probabilities of success, via "single-purpose" councils. If your council exists to "give or get," members who accept an appointment have already made a commitment to be financially involved. Offers an opportunity to increase diversity among the organization's influentials. Acts as a farm team for developing leadership for the governing board and other organizational opportunities. Represents the organization or one of its departments, matching council members' professional expertise or interests in a best fit. There are more reasons why advisory councils can be your leadership or advancement panacea. Add your own experiences to the list.Perhaps your nonprofit organization reserves to the governing board the authority to appoint councils and/or members. This can be appropriate, depending upon your organization's history and needs. But you may want to expedite the creation of advisory councils and the recruitment/appointment of members by developing a brief advisory council blueprint and then request the board pass a resolution empowering the CEO to develop advisory councils and enlist members later as the organization may require. You can also use the blueprint as a job description for orienting new council members.Here's an example of what an advisory council blueprint might entail:Mission: To advise the CEO on matters pertaining to leadership in the organization and the community.Counsel: Expertise, insight, strategic thinking, innovative ideas, networking, trend analysis, encouragement, vision casting, leadership, advocacy, mentoring, support, community opportunities and contributions.Membership: Members will be appointed for their leadership, expertise, wisdom, and contacts, which they can use to build the effectiveness and reputation of the organization. They shall be people of good character whose lives and work will by association be a credit to each other and the organization. Members will be appointed by the CEO.Terms: Members will serve without terms (or you can develop terms) for as long as the CEO and the council member consider the service mutually beneficial.Members should attend meetings faithfully and agree to support the organization financially on an annual or project basis.Meetings: Councils will typically convene four times per year in meetings called by the CEO. Special meetings may be called from time to time.Authority: Councils serve in an advisory capacity with the consent of the Board of Directors. Advisory council recommendations will have no legal or binding authority upon the organization but will likely influence the course of the organization's development.One last thought you should make a cardinal rule: The worst thing you can do is appoint advisory council members and then not use (converse, convene, listen, engage, etc.) them. Putting people on a council that goes nowhere wastes their time and disrespects their talent. Fool them once and you won't fool them twice.Advisory councils are a wonderfully flexible and potentially high-impact tool. Skillfully employed by a CEO or board, advisory councils can act like a chlorine shock to the organization's leadership pool. They can help make things clear so you can once again see where you're going and how you're going to get there.
Do not expect to receive benefits right away. Do volunteering work for network groups to stay visible and give back. As a responsible CFO you must show up regularly and on time, show others how you deal with business meetings and associates. Give quality referrals and leads. If someone gives you a referral, follow up on it in a timely manner. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. Take a referral seriously.
Don’t spam on social networks. Use the platforms designed for CFO to build relationships and expand your network.
Limit self-promotion. Don’t sell. Build relationships. Be as helpful as you can. Share relevant information with others as people love to learn new things. Participate in discussions. Let others know you’re real. Be approachable. Treat your online connections just as valuable as your offline connections.